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    Dutchess to use Oakley Street building as 'temporary transitional housing': What we know

    By Saba Ali, Poughkeepsie Journal,

    27 days ago

    While debate continues over its location, Dutchess County is planning to turn an Oakley Street property in the city of Poughkeepsie into temporary transitional housing, instead of what it had originally called an emergency housing facility.

    While the county's plan for the shelter had always been to create a facility with wrap-around services to help mitigate chronic homelessness, this latest version of the Oakley Street project, when fully realized, would not be used as a "warming shelter" for those who are just looking for a place to stay.

    Individuals would first need to apply for temporary housing assistance through the Dutchess County Department of Community & Family Services.

    The county would not clarify how this version differs from what the county set out to do with Oakley Street two years ago.

    "The lack of affordable housing, as well as transitional housing, has created a crisis in the whole housing system. Many people who are currently utilizing 'emergency' housing, whether in the PODS, certified shelters or hotels, should actually be in transitional housing – as emergency is generally a stay of up to 90 days, while transitional housing is generally considered up to two years," said Sabrina Marzouka, head of Dutchess County Community & Family Services.

    The PODs behind the Dutchess County jail on North Hamilton Street were originally meant to house inmates, but were turned into a temporary homeless shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Latest:NY awarded $13 million for Poughkeepsie shelter

    The county did highlight its plans to provide "scattered site" emergency overnight warming centers throughout Dutchess, and work with agencies such as Community Housing Innovations, Catholic Charities and Hudson River Housing to provide housing when temperatures hit 32 or below. It is unclear how the "scattered sites" will be used when temperatures are above the Code Blue threshold.

    Jamar Cummings, who chairs the county's Emergency Housing Facility Stakeholders group, said while he was optimistic about how newly elected Dutchess County Executive Sue Serino was approaching the contentious issue of the shelter, he was worried about the lack of committed language coming from the county. They did not provide specifics about which of the municipalities would house the "scattered sites," he said. Cummings also questioned where individuals who did not fit the requirements of transitional housing would go outside of winter months.

    "I'm afraid of it being a bait and switch," Cummings said. "I'm afraid this is what they are telling us in the community to get our buy-in, and it ends up operating like the PODs are operating."

    How it startedDutchess homeless shelter: Why officials, residents say Poughkeepsie plan should be changed

    "Placing another transitional housing/shelter facility in this area of the city will only compound the existing challenges and stunt the economic and social growth in our Northside neighborhoods," said City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Yvonne Flowers.

    She believes there are better locations, including returning the shelter to its original home in the town of Poughkeepsie, and plans to continue working with Serino on a more "equitable solution."

    Serino had met with Cummings, along with other city and county officials, to talk about next steps for the project. A stakeholder's group meeting is planned for May 28.

    Model shelter:Dutchess moving forward on Oakley Street homeless shelter after report

    How the PODs have been used in Dutchess County

    Hudson River Housing, which manages the PODS, has stated people are screened onsite, though the county contends the temporary shelter was being used like a "warming site" and that the lack of privacy limits how effectively case managers can engage with clients.

    "It is difficult to manage the behavior of residents who are in and out of the building. The shelter residents themselves have ready access to drugs and other negative influences on the streets (Crime, Trafficking, etc.) that are more visible in the City of Poughkeepsie," said Patrice Kellett, Hudson River Housing director of resource development and strategic planning.

    "Capacity at the PODs is currently 154 beds and requests for shelter continue to exceed our capacity on some nights," Kellett had explained earlier this year.

    The agency, along with elected officials, has challenged the county's decision to locate the shelter in the Fifth Ward. Residents and business owners have said the county did not ask for their input when making the decision to locate the shelter here.

    Considering alternative locations for Dutchess shelter

    The county's shelter, which was introduced in 2022, has been stalled due to a variety of reasons including financial constraints, opposition from residents and elected officials and the the threat of litigation if the county continues to view the Fifth Ward, a low-income neighborhood, as the only viable option.

    "Within less than one square mile of this section of the city houses the Dutchess County jail which was expanded twice despite opposition from residents, two elementary schools, a mental health center, several transitional housing units, a supportive house for sex offenders, two supportive housing complexes, and a more than 180-unit public housing complex," Flowers said.

    The county had recently received a little over $13 million from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance through its Homeless Housing and Assistance Program. Serino had been inquiring into whether the grant money could be used to create the shelter at another location — the county considered a spotnear Hudson River Housing's transitional housing called Hillcrest.

    "The grant award remains location-specific to the Oakley Street facility. A different location, if one could be successfully identified, would require a revised grant submission," according to a county press release, which also said state officials had advised the county that grant resubmissions "have rarely been successful."

    Saba Ali: 845-451-4518

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